Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to get a fresh perspective. I know this far too well because I’m short. I’ve experienced a lifetime of shortness, and as a result, I’ve spent considerable amounts of time trying to see what others could view so easily.
That is why one of my favorite places to go when I was growing up in Jamaica, Queens, was St. John’s University on the next block. I used to consider that campus my backyard.
I would walk over to the football field and climb to the highest section of its concrete stadium. While sitting there I could see the unending clusters of wood frame and brick houses that filled my neighborhood.
More importantly, I had a terrific, unencumbered view of the distant NYC skyline. In the early evening, the cityscape became more beautiful when the beginning edges of the sunset would set it aglow. During those moments, Manhattan assumed a magical Oz-like quality as it beckoned to me from a distance.
This was the one place I could go where I didn’t have to stretch or squint to see what I was looking at. The setting was laid out for me to take in. This “so close, yet so far away” view above the tree line reminded me that there was more to be discovered and experienced outside of my Queens neighborhood. My perch provided me with fresh perspectives.
The ability to gain fresh perspectives is one of the reasons I like facilitating the art of story sharing with clients. When clients learn how to share their stories, they not only learn how to tell them effectively, but they also learn how to listen. They learn how to listen to themselves and their listeners. In a small-group setting, each listener takes responsibility for listening for something specific. For example, one listener would pay attention to the adjectives that come to mind as the story unfolds. Another listener will say what they want to learn more about.
During the feedback portion of the exercise, the storyteller receives information about what their listeners heard and how it made them feel. We do it in a positive, affirming manner. This information enables the teller to learn about elements of their story and themselves that they may be unaware of. For example, I remember when a storyteller described themselves as a “nervous mess” during a situation, only to have heard that their listener stressed that the word that immediately came to their mind was “brave.”
So, like my seat at the top of the college stadium, story-sharing feedback enables the client to gain perspective. It can shift their point of view from negative to positive. Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Never write about a place until you’re away from it because that gives your perspective meaning.” Likewise, never consider a story complete until you’ve given yourself an opportunity to tell it.
So practice the art of story sharing and enjoy the view.
Julienne B. Ryan is a certified AccuMatch BI coach and the author of “The Learned-It-In-Queens Communications Playbook — Winning Against Digital Distraction” and an applied, narrative storyteller, speaker, trainer, and coach. She believes in the power of listening and is on a mission to improve how we communicate with each other, one authentic conversation at a time. Click on this link to learn about her services.